Located just off one of Bangkok’s highways is a plot of land known to locals and tourists alike as the Bangkok Airplane Graveyard. The lot is the final resting place of several abandoned planes that have been left to the elements.
The graveyard first opened in 2010
Bangkok’s airplane graveyard is located in the eastern part of the city, in the Bang Kapi district. The plot is just off Ramkhamhaeng Road, beside an autobody shop, and is filled with the scrap remains of several planes. Parts such as wings, fuselages, and other various debris from commercial craft litter the area.
It was once been a beer garden where visitors could enjoy beverages near decommissioned planes that were bought at auction. However, it was not profitable and the site was abandoned altogether. The Thai businessman who is said to have bought the planes still owns the plot and the scraps that were left there.
The remains of the planes
The first reports of planes on the lot were in 2010, with the noses of various craft being dropped off in the area. In 2014, two McDonnell Douglas MD-82s were dropped off in the graveyard. In 2007, one of these jetliners was involved in a crash that occurred at the Phuket International Airport. Of the 130 people on board, 90 died.
In 2015, a Boeing 747 was also added to the graveyard, with the fuselage and cockpit still relatively intact. However, the structural integrity of all the planes at the site is compromised due to their decomposition. For this reason, tourists are expected to explore at their own risk.
Families lived on the premises
With some of the bodies of the planes relatively intact, a few impoverished families decided to move into the scrapped aircraft and make them into homes. For them, living under the cover of these abandoned planes was better than living on the streets of Bangkok. The family was able to make a small income from selling scrap metal and recyclable cans.
The families moved in beds, put up curtains, and otherwise made the spaces suitable for living. Although these areas were not officially off-limits, it was an unspoken rule that the places where families lived were restricted to any tourists coming to see the airplane graveyard.
Admission was decided by the families
Another way that the impoverished families brought in a modest income was to charge visitors a small admissions fee. This was not an official fee, but was run and set by the families to help them earn some money. Many speculated that there was an unspoken agreement between the plot’s owner and those living there, under which the families charged a visitor’s fee in exchange for helping to maintain the property.
In 2016, tourists recorded an admissions fee of 200 Baht (just shy of $6) per person. However, this wasn’t a set price. Prices varied between 100 and 800 Baht depending on what the resident families felt like charging tourists on any given day. After about an hour of touring, visitors could expect the families to advise them that their time on the plot was up.
Bangkok’s airplane graveyard has been declared officially closed, and it is unclear whether the families still live in the skeletons of the abandoned aircraft.